JEFFERSON CITY - Legislators at the State Capitol discussed several bills Wednesday that would tighten up anti-bullying requirements for Missouri schools. One of the bills points specifically to cyberbullying, which has increasingly become an issue due to access to cell phones and social media. Bob Simpson, student resource officer at Southern Boone County Middle School, said the legislation is part of the solution, but most of the onus falls on teachers, parents and the students themselves in solving this problem.
"With most kids having cell phones now, and more use of social media, we're seeing more cyberbullying," Simpson said.
He said enforcement in cases of cyberbullying is harder since the bullying is often happening away from school, but stressed that by working with local police and teachers, the school can keep cyberbullying under control.
Another bill currently under consideration would, among other things, require that schools post their anti-bullying policy more readily in either school planners or around the school. That bill's sponsor, Rep. Ray Weter, R-Nixa, said making people aware of the issue and focusing on intervention will help solve the problem of bullying.
Rep. Tom Shively, D-Shelbyville, a school teacher for 30 years, said the issue is hard to ever fully solve, but thinks the current legislation will help schools fight bullying.
"There's always going to be some hazing or bullying going on, but if you keep teachers in the halls, watching for it and then you try to help both the bullied and the bullies you can go a long way towards reducing bullying in schools," he said.
At Southern Boone County Middle School, signs posted around the school show the definition of bullying and warn students to inform a teacher if they know of bullying going on. The school's handbook also has a policy for dealing with instances of bullying, and Simpson said the school held an assembly for students to learn about the negative impact bullying and cyberbullying can have.
"Cyberbullying makes this issue even harder to figure out, but by talking with teachers and students, we've had a lot of success in keeping the instances down and having people who see bullying reporting it quicker," Simpson said.
The Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) has supported anti-bullying legislation in the past and again supports most of the proposed measures. Todd Fuller, the spokesman for MSTA, said that educating teachers, administrators, parents and students will help improve conditions in schools.
"Especially with cyberbullying, that happens at home and school, everyone needs to be on the same page working together to fight the problem," he said.
The three bills in the state house have passed through committee and now will go before the full house in the coming weeks.